COVID-19 tracker: Johnson & Johnson aims to test shot in kids; President Trump talks firing Fauci post-election

By | November 2, 2020

Johnson & Johnson plans to start testing its vaccine hopeful in children as young as 12. Meanwhile, Aspen Pharmacare entered a preliminary agreement to crank out J&J’s shot in South Africa. 

The UK’s drug regulator is investing £1.5 million in an artificial intelligence tool to track vaccine side effects. And India’s Bharat Biotech hopes to launch its vaccine in the second quarter of 2021.

President Donald Trump discussed firing Anthony Fauci at a rally early Monday morning. Meanwhile, Fauci warned that winter is coming, urging the U.S. to make an “abrupt change” in public health practices and behaviors. 

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The worldwide case count passed 46.6 million Monday morning, with more than 1.2 million reported deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 dashboard.

Please read below for the latest updates. Daily COVID-19 tracker entries from Aug. 11 to Oct. 30 can be found here. Entries from April 21 through Aug. 11 are here. Entries from Jan. 30 through April 20 are here.

UPDATED: Monday, Nov. 2 at 9:15 a.m.

Johnson & Johnson hopes to start testing its vaccine in children ages 12 to 18 as soon as possible, said Jerry Sadoff, a vaccine research scientist at J&J’s Janssen unit. The company could eventually test its shot in even younger children, Sadoff said. J&J’s cold virus vaccine platform, AdVac, is used in an Ebola vaccine that has been given to infants, children and pregnant women. 

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Africa’s biggest drugmaker, Aspen Pharmacare, entered a preliminary agreement to produce Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine in South Africa. The company would carry out manufacturing and packaging work at its Port Elizabeth plant, which boasts capacity for 300 million doses a year, if the shot snares approval. The companies still need to hash out details around technology transfer and commercial manufacturing terms, Aspen said in a release. 

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) awarded £1.5 million ($ 1.9 million) to GenPact’s British subsidiary, GenPact UK, for an artificial intelligence tool to process potential side effects and safety signals from an approved vaccine. Based on historical vaccination data, the MHRA expects to see between 50,000 and 100,000 side effect reports for every 100 million doses administered over a six to 12 month span. 

Bharat Biotech aims to launch its vaccine hopeful in the second quarter of 2021, pending an approval in India, the company’s executive director said. Bharat expects to kick off recruitment for a phase 3 trial of the shot, Covaxin, this month, and plans to provide two doses to participants. 

At a rally early Monday morning, President Donald Trump floated the possibility of firing the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, after the election. Trump reiterated that the country had “turned the corner” on the pandemic during the event. Meanwhile, in a Washington Post article published Saturday, Fauci said the U.S. “could not be positioned more poorly” ahead of the winter. 

The U.S. needs to make an “abrupt change” in public health practices and behaviors to counter the pandemic, Anthony Fauci told The Washington Post. The coronavirus task force is meeting infrequently and has much less sway over the President now that the Trump Administration is focusing on reopening the nation, Fauci said. He also slammed Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist who has become Trump’s favored pandemic advisor. “He’s a smart guy who’s talking about things that I believe he doesn’t have any real insight or knowledge or experience in.”

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Meanwhile, Thanksgiving will be a COVID-19 “inflection point,” former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said. “There are about 23 states that are accelerating the spread right now,” he added. It’s unlikely that the entire country would lock down again, like Europe is doing, though Gottlieb said he expected states to take local action as hospitals become overwhelmed once more. 

The UK BioIndustry Association (BIA) came to the defense of Kate Bingham, chair of the country’s vaccine taskforce, after The Sunday Times published an article alleging she had disclosed “sensitive” information about the COVID-19 medicines and vaccines the UK could potentially invest in at a women’s conference in the U.S. The content she presented was approved by the government and Bingham said little that experts at the conference couldn’t deduce themselves, BIA said. 

Siberian-based drugmaker Pharmasyntez asked the Russian government for permission to produce a generic version of Gilead Sciences’ Veklury, or remdesivir, despite lacking a patent for the antiviral. The drugmaker wrote to Gilead in July, but did not hear back, and is now asking the Russian government to activate a compulsory licensing process, which would enable Pharmasyntez to churn out its generic without Gilead’s OK. 

Read our prior COVID-19 news here >> 

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